I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My grandfather came to America at the age of 18 from the Netherlands. He spoke no English but was fully equipped with determination and charm as he managed to woo and marry my grandmother within his first year in the states. He is a brilliant and generous man who continues to run several successful companies and still makes his way into the office every day.
My father started his business when I was born. I am the last of three kids. Now having children of my own I see what an immense challenge my parents faced. The business has thrived and is in its 27th year. My dad has much to be proud of.
By the age of 7 I had caught the business bug. In my career I have sold lemonade, wild flowers, painted cards & flower pots and handcrafted jewelry made from polymer clay. While all the other little girls were playing with dolls and painting their faces with their mother’s make-up my best friend and I were playing “store” and dreaming of our future careers as cartoonists, teachers, designers, etc.
In my life I am never devoid of a goal. I set them high and work like mad to accomplish them. Nothing is too lofty or unattainable. Along the way, my equally goal-orientated father has taught me on several occasions that the goal itself is not the reward. It is in the journey.
In the journey there is learning. Every part of my being is opened up, awake and alive. With the excitement of a child I am eager to devour anything I can that will inch me closer to the goal. Bumps and bruises are expected but they make the end that much more anticipated and celebrated.
You imagine all will be well when the goal has been reached. “I will be happy when _______ (fill in the blank)”. You get to the end and now what? The goal has been accomplished and you may relish in it briefly but moments later a new goal is set and a new journey begins.
As to be expected currently I have many goals but one particular Sunday a couple of weeks ago I realized that I am beginning to understand what for years my father has been trying to teach me – Enjoy the journey.
Sunday was a day to delight in. A humbling and joyful message heard, a smooth ride across the sound while one child slept and the other was filled with an acquisitive joy. Sun. Berries. New friends. Re-united with old friends. Swings. Kids. Pork. Fat. Salt and sugar.
I attribute this new phase of life called parenting for forcing me to enjoy the journey. Parenting has proven to be the most thrilling, painful, joyous and utterly exhausting journey I have ever embarked on. It has forced me to put other goals on hold to fulfill one of my most important goals of all – raising children.
In the midst of the tantrums and disciplines, the bumps and band-aids I see this phase as one that is fleeting. Some days I find great hope and pleasure in this other days I hold them tight and pray that this moment will never cease.
I have to remind myself daily to stop. Breathe. And enjoy the journey.
So now back to Sunday. The day that caused me to smile and pause long enough to realize these days are precious, vital and make this journey so sweet. It was Pork that united us. Shauna (a.k.a. Gluten-Free Girl) invited my family and I to their beautiful home to enjoy a Pork Potluck. Anticipating many savory dishes I opted to contribute something sweet – which of course comes at little or no surprise. But this sweet needed to stick to the guidelines of being studded with a portion of pork.
No problem. We all know that I am a sucker for all things sweet and savory. And really who can argue with the marriage of a smokey, savory and salty bacon cooked until completely crisp then tossed into a sweet and creamy caramel flavored with maple syrup and dark brown sugar? I guess there probably are a few people who might argue with this union but until you pop one of these chewy candies into your mouth you have no platform on which to proclaim your disgust. a.k.a. Don’t knock it ’till you try it.
I casually sprinkled the thick-cut Hempler’s bacon with cayenne before frying to a nearly blackened crisp. Once the caramel had reached its perfect molten temperature I stirred in a handful of the bacon then reserved the rest to get sprinkled on top. The caramel set beautifully. Some were cut and served as is while a select few were covered in tempered dark chocolate. All of them were devoured.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1/4 cup maple syrup
Bacon fried to a crisp. The amount is up to you. I used 8-12 strips of thick-cut bacon. I REALLY love bacon.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine. Set on medium high heat. Stir occasionally and cook until 240*. The candy is now at firm-ball stage. Remove from the stove and carefully stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cream. Place back on the heat and continue to cook to 245*. Immediately remove from heat and stir in a portion of the crispy bacon. Pour the caramel into a buttered dish (the size depends on how thick you want your caramels. 8×8 = thick caramels 9×13 = thin caramels. You can also use a cookie sheet). Scatter the remaining bacon on top. Let set for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Wherever you are in the process of fulfilling your goals I do hope that these caramels inspire you to take a moment to stop, chew and savor the journey. It is, after all, the best part.
Some of the current family businesses: